Around The Pink House


Reviewed by: Rebecca Naughten

Around The Pink House
"The film is much about the changing nature of Beirut and bearing witness to the past as it is the eviction."

During the Civil War, two families - the Adaimis and the Nawfals - fled their respective villages and jointly took (illegal) possession of an abandoned property known locally as the Pink House. Eleven years later in post-war Beirut, the families are informed that the new building owner intends to develop it into a commercial centre and that they must leave their home within 10 days.

Their enforced departure - with a paltry financial recompense that limits their realistic options for resettlement elsewhere - divides the other occupants of the street, with the battle between commerce and community leading to boycotts, petitions and malicious rumours. Much of the film's comedy stems from the bickering between the local shopkeepers, most of whom favour the development of the area as something good for (their) business but who also have longstanding friendships or family connections with the two families, which means that loyalties shift as the narrative unfolds.

Having lived side by side for more than 11 years, the Adaimis and the Nawfals are entwined through shared experience - they are effectively one extended family, and the fluctuating dynamics and disagreements of people living in close proximity span blood ties and generations. Although divided in terms of tactics - at least in terms of the younger generation, there is disagreement as to whether to protest peacefully or to ask for the assistance of the local militia - they ultimately stand united in the face of big (and little) business, and are collectively determined to retain their dignity.

The film is much about the changing nature of Beirut and bearing witness to the past as it is the eviction. The opening credits pass back and forth over a picture postcard image of old Beirut which gradually disappears and disintegrates under superimposed images of explosions - this demolition of the past continues throughout the film with the soundtrack regularly perforated by the sound of controlled explosions as (unseen) buildings are torn down in the name of renewal. History is marked on the walls of the Pink House, either in the form of the bullet holes and cracks caused by bombs - carefully documented and measured by the inhabitants - or the traces of the lavish lifestyle and glamorous soirees of the house's previous owner Lady Fortuna. The house stands as a witness to the lives of its inhabitants and neighbours - the misfortunes of the Adaimis and Nawfals are just another chapter of its story.

Around the Pink House doesn't sugarcoat the almost-inevitable triumph of Big Business in this set-up but takes a 'what doesn't kill us makes us stronger' approach to how events impact on the characters and their family ties. Overall it is a gentle tale of a community fighting against the iniquities of commerce and 'development'.

Reviewed on: 15 Sep 2014
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In post-war Beirut the planned eviction of two refugee families divides the local community.

Director: Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige

Writer: Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige

Starring: Hanane Abboud, Fadi Abi Samra, Anne-Marie Afif, Asma Andraos, Aline Aoun, Zina Arida, Nabil Assaf, Antoine Balabane, Feriale Barouky, Adib Basbous, Karl Bassil, Issam Bou Khaled, Joseph Bou Nassar, Omar Boustani, Nicolas Daniel

Year: 1999

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: France, Canada, Lebanon


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